There are numerous changes to the Nissan 350Z coupe and roadster for 2006. On models equipped with the manual transmission, horsepower increases to 300 hp (it remains at 2005’s 287 hp level with the five-speed automatic); models without Brembo brakes get larger brake rotors; steering is now speed-sensitive; there’s a revisede front bumper, headlights and grille, and new rear LED brake lights; 18-inch wheels are standard, and there are new designs; bi-Xenon headlamps become standard; there’s new cloth seat material; revised HVAC controls; the Bose audio system gets MP3 capability; there’s a new navigation system; the Grand Touring coupe model adds Brembo brakes, front and rear spoiler and Vehicle Dynamic Control to the Touring model; and new exterior colours Silver Alloy, Magentic Black and Interlagos Fire step in, while Ultra Yellow retires.

All 350Z models use a 3.5-litre V6. The coupe comes as a Performance M6, with six-speed manual transmission, or as the Performance A5, with five-speed automatic. The roadster comes in one line, with the manual; the automatic can be added as an option.

The Performance M6 includes traction and Vehicle Dynamic Control, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, six-CD stereo with seven speakers and wheel-mounted controls, cruise control, power locks, HomeLink garage door opener, keyless entry, heated mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power driver’s seat, four-way power passenger seat with manual recline, heated leather seats, leather-wrapped wheel, variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear wiper, and tire pressure monitoring system.

The Performance A5 is similarly equipped, but Vehicle Dynamic Control is optional.

The Roadster shares the Performance M6’s features, but with optional Vehicle Dynamic Control, and a power roof that hides away under an electronically-moving storage cover. The Roadster also includes a wind deflector, remote trunk opener, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, power recline on the passenger seat and a rollover protection system.

The 350Z is a worthy successor to the company’s legendary line of Z cars, offering exceptional performance and driving dynamics at a reasonable price. A tire wear issue with some earlier models seems to have been ironed out. The “Z” uses a long wheelbase, wide track and 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution for superb handling and stability in the corners, yet it exhibits flawlessly good manners when driven lightly. The uncluttered cockpit is true to its heritage but with a thoroughly modern feel. There’s a surprising amount of passenger space, and enough storage space for a weekend jaunt. The convertible just takes a good thing and makes it better.

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